Read all posts from October 2009
October 05, 2009
06:41 PM ESTThe White House just launched a new webpage that allows local school groups to apply for tours of the South Lawn’s vegetable garden. The White House chefs will lead the new tours, and local school groups are welcome to apply for a visit. The guided tour will include a walk through the South Lawn, an explanation of the Kitchen Garden, a peek at the beehive and a few tips on easy, fun ways to eat healthy.
With the help of local school children, First Lady Michelle Obama broke ground and planted seeds in the White House Kitchen Garden in the spring of 2009. During the groundbreaking, the First Lady rallied the kids and led them in a cheer. Shouts of "Let’s hear it for vegetables!" and "Let’s hear it for fruit!" could be heard across the South Lawn.
Although some say they heard one student booing the mention of fruit, most of the children roared their approval. And why not? Since the groundbreaking, hundreds of pounds of fresh, healthy and locally grown vegetables have been enjoyed by guests and delivered to local food pantries. Now, students from across the area will have the opportunity to tour, have fun and learn about healthy eating at the White House Kitchen Garden.
Full details, regulations and online applications are available at /about/tours_and_events/garden/
October 05, 2009
06:15 PM ESTKnow someone without access to a computer? Share an office with lots of coworkers? Spend time at a library or community center? Or simply want to keep your friends and family members informed? Print this flu information and share it!New materials on Flu.gov provide information on how you can stay healthy this flu season and help others do the same. With so much information online and in the news about H1N1 and seasonal flu, it’s easy to be confused. These new one-page information sheets are personalized for people with different needs and provide simple tips that everyone needs to know this flu season.Now that the information is available, we need your help in making sure it gets to those you need it. The new Flu.gov information sheets are for:
Now it’s easy to share important flu information with others. Simply print one or more of these pages and give them to your friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and local venues. Everyone needs to know what to do about the flu. You can spread the word and help keep your community healthy.
- Parents and those who are expecting:
- The office:
- Health professionals:
- People with health conditions:
For more information and the latest information about seasonal and H1N1 flu, be sure to visit Flu.gov.
Jesse LeeOctober 05, 2009
03:56 PM ESTIt might seem merely symbolic that there were doctors from all 50 states here at the White House, but it’s symbolic of a deep truth about the health insurance reform debate. As the President said today, "when you cut through all the noise and all the distractions that are out there, I think what's most telling is that some of the people who are most supportive of reform are the very medical professionals who know the health care system best -- the doctors and nurses of America."He continued:These men and women here would not be supporting health insurance reform if they really believed that it would lead to government bureaucrats making decisions that are best left to doctors. They wouldn't be here today if they believed that reform in any way would damage the very critical and sacred doctor-patient relationship.Instead, the reason these doctors are here is because they have seen firsthand what's broken about our health care system. They've seen what happens when their patients can't get the care they need because some insurance company has decided to drop their coverage or water it down. They've seen what happens when a patient is forced to pay out of pocket thousands of dollars she doesn't have for treatments that she desperately needs. They've seen what happens when patients don't come in for regular check-ups or screenings because either their insurance company doesn't cover it or they can't afford insurance in the first place. And they've seen far too much of time that they want to devote to taking care of patients spent filling out forms and haggling with insurance companies about payments.So these doctors know what needs to be fixed about our health care system. And they know that health insurance reform will do -- that it will go a long way towards making patients healthier and doctors and nurses to be able to perform that -- those tasks that are so important to them and led them into medicine in the first place.
Jesse LeeOctober 05, 2009
12:35 PM ESTA lot of people might have an intuitive skepticism towards the idea that there is enough waste in our health care system to pay for so much of the initial costs. That's understandable – too often politicians point to the nebulous cutting of "waste and abuse" as an easy out when asked how they intend to pay for something, whether it’s a new program or a tax cut.On the other hand, most Americans also know that, as the President has said, "We spend more than any country on Earth, and we're not any healthier for it."Today OMB Director Peter Orszag, a fiscal hawk who has taken on controlling health care costs as something of a passion over the past few years, lays out the case in a blog post citing a new study out of the Institute of Medicine:The need for health insurance reform just became clearer with the release from the non-partisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) of an estimate that the health care system contains over $800 billion in excess costs, a number consistent with previous studies. In other words, according to this new estimate, we spend more than $800 billion a year on health care that does not make us healthier. The result is higher premiums for us all and higher costs for the government — but it also means you may receive tests and procedures that you do not need, putting your health at risk.According to the study, excess costs arise from a variety of sources. Excessively high administrative costs for insurers, physician and hospitals come to about $200 billion. Unnecessary services, such as using more expensive brand name drugs when generics are just as good and overusing tests and treatments compared to professional guidelines, account for another $200 billion or so. Errors and avoidable complications add $75 billion, and fraud adds another $75 billion. Preventive measures — both in terms of keeping healthy people healthy and keeping people with chronic illness such as diabetes out of the hospital — tack on another $55 billion. And the list goes on.The big question is how can we get reduce these costs? The IOM identifies different levers to push change, including: uniform administrative requirements for paperwork; reform of payment incentives so that they are more oriented toward results and quality; increased reliance on evidence-based quality practices; the development of more independent evidence of what works and what does not work; electronic clinical records that can be shared and are privacy protected; and providing incentives for more consistent and widespread prevention interventions. As one goes down the list, almost all these changes have been endorsed by the Administration and most are included in the reform bills making their way through Congress, including the legislation currently being considered by the Finance Committee.
Jesse LeeOctober 05, 2009
09:40 AM ESTIt's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, reports or documents.Supporting Article: "Poll: Doctors Among Public Option's Biggest Fans," NPR, 9/15/09Related Event: "President Obama Speaks to Doctors from Across the Country," Live-streamed at WhiteHouse.gov at 11:10
Talking Points: President Obama Welcomes Doctors from around the Country· Today, President Obama will welcome doctors from across the United States to the White House to share their unique perspective on the struggles that American families face every day when it comes to health care.· These doctors know as well as anyone that inaction is no longer an option as so many people from all across America face rising costs and growing insecurity with their health insurance.· They have seen firsthand what's broken about our health care system.o They have seen what happens when their patients can't get the care they need because their coverage has been watered down or are forced to pay thousands of dollars they don’t have for the care they need.o They've seen what happens when patients can't get regular screenings or checkups, and they’ve seen far too much of their time spent on filling out forms and haggling with insurance company bureaucrats.· That's why they have decided to join the President in pushing for health insurance reform this year.· They also know that, despite the scary rumors being spread by defenders of the status quo, health insurance reform will not put government bureaucrats between doctors and patients.o They wouldn't be coming to the White House to push for reform if they thought it would damage that sacred doctor-patient relationship.· President Obama's health insurance reform plan will give Americans who have insurance unprecedented security and stability. It will give Americans without insurance quality, affordable options. And it will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government.
Jesse LeeOctober 03, 2009
12:00 AM ESTThe President discusses ongoing efforts to spur job creation. He also explains why health insurance reform is needed not just for long-term economic stability, but in the immediate future, discussing statistics on how costs will continue to skyrocket and hurt small businesses even next year.
October 02, 2009
07:10 PM ESTEd. note: A Spanish translation of this blog post is also available below.
Last night was a celebratory night at the Vice President's residence as the Bidens celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. The doors were swung open to the U.S. Naval Observatory as the Mariachi Las Americas greeted guests as the sun set on a beautiful fall evening in our nation's capital.The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a gathering of 150 Hispanic mayors, cabinet members, members of Congress and other Latino leaders from across the nation.The Vice President quoted Cesar Chavez in his remarks by reminding us all that "when you have people together who believe in something very strongly – whether it's religion or politics or unions – things happen." Last night's celebration was a reminder that under the Obama-Biden Administration, good things are happening.Moises Vela is the Director of Administration in the Office of the Vice PresidentAnoche fue un momento de celebración en la residencia del Vicepresidente ya que los Biden celebraron el Mes de la Herencia Hispana. El Observatorio Naval de los Estados Unidos mantuvo sus puertas abiertas de par en par mientras los Mariachis Las Americas recibieron los invitados a medida que el sol se ocultaba en una noche hermosa de otoño en la capital de nuestra nación.El Vicepresidente y la Dra. Jill Biden fueron los anfitriones de la actividad que reunió unos 150 alcades hispanos, miembros del gabinete, miembros del congreso y otros líderes latinos de toda la nación.El Vicepresidente como parte de su discurso citó las palabras de César Chávez recordándonos que "Cuando se está junto a personas que creen en algo con mucha firmeza — ya sea en la religión, la política o los sindicatos—, se logran muchas cosas". La celebración anoche fue un recordatorio de que bajo la administración de Obama y Biden, ocurren cosas buenas.Moise Vela es el Director de Administración de la Oficina del Vicepresidente Moises Vela is the Director of Administration in the Office of the Vice President
October 02, 2009
04:33 PM ESTYesterday, Vice President Biden announced nine new year-end targets for Recovery Act progress:
- Batteries for Vehicle Electrification: By the end of the year, the Department of Energy will have put in place funding for battery manufacturing plants that can power 400,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles each year.
- Military Hospitals: The Department of Defense will begin 34 construction and modernization projects at hospitals and medical centers throughout the country over the next 90 days, making a total of 65 hospitals and medical centers with projects under construction since passage of the Act.
- National Parks: The Department of Interior will begin on-site construction improvement work in 105 more national parks throughout the country over the next 90 days.
- Small Business Assistance: The Small Business Administration will provide and leverage $5 billion in capital to over 12,000 small businesses through two key lending programs (7a and 504) in the next 90 days.
- Fuel-Efficient Bus Purchases: By the end of the year, the Federal Transit Agency will have awarded enough grants to enable the purchase of approximately 10,000 new transit vehicles across the country.
- Housing Loans and Rehabilitation: By the end of the year, the Department of Agriculture and the Housing and Urban Development Department will have provided housing loans and capital funding to finance, build, or renovate over 100,000 households across America.
- Renewable Energy: By the end of the year, the Departments of Energy and Treasury will help fund renewable energy projects that will generate enough alternative energy to power 900,000 homes in the United States once completed.
- Road Projects: By the end of the year, the Department of Transportation will have obligated enough funds to support 10,000 highway projects.
"We’ve made great progress in the first seven months of Recovery Act implementation in 2009 – now we want to finish the year even stronger," said Vice President Biden. "We want to continue to be ahead of schedule on key metrics, doing all we can to create and save jobs, and building a lasting economic platform for our country."
While the Vice President was setting new and aggressive benchmarks for the Recovery Act, news media across the country continued to report on its success in creating new jobs as well as spurring innovation in science and technology that can drive the economy for years to come. The Washington Post reports on President Obama's announcement of $5 billion in research grants, including funds that "would be directed to work on genetic research that could identify the causes and cures for ailments ranging from heart and lung disease to blood diseases and autism." The Wall Street Journal reports on a road project that is expected to provide 450 to 600 jobs in California's Inland Empire, an area hard-hit by the housing bubble. "Without the stimulus money, the Interstate 215 project would have been another victim of California's budget crisis," the Journal writes.
These and other stories from across the nation follow:
"The National Institutes of Health has awarded $5 billion in grants to support research into cures for cancer and other diseases, and to create jobs. President Barack Obama was making the announcement Wednesday at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The money comes from the $787 billion economic stimulus program that is designed to help create jobs and turn around the economy. The program included $10 billion for the NIH. Jared Bernstein, who is Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist, says the $5 billion will support some 12,000 existing projects and create thousands of jobs over the next two years for researchers and educators, as well as medical equipment makers and suppliers."
California, [The Daily Sound, 9/28/09]
"Researchers in a wide array of fields at UC Santa Barbara have received a $36 million boost through the federal economic stimulus package that university officials hope will support the local economy, fuel innovation and train the next generation of scientists…Praising federal leaders for continuing to back higher education, UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said the funding will build upon the ongoing research on campus, leading to more patents, more local companies, more local jobs and more tax revenues. 'All of this is yet more evidence of the tremendous impact UCSB has on the local and regional economy,' he said, noting that 90 companies have been formed in the Santa Barbara area by graduates and faculty members, including nine in the past year. The grants are spread across a broad spectrum of academic topics at the university, from engineering and computer science to geography, psychology and neuroscience."
"With a federal stimulus grant of $128 million, the San Bernardino project is the country's fourth-largest stimulus investment in a road project. Without the stimulus money, the Interstate 215 project would have been another victim of California's budget crisis …For years, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, which are home to the Inland Empire, led California in population growth and home construction, as thousands of families escaping skyrocketing home prices in neighboring Los Angeles County swarmed into the region. The area became the backbone of California's international trade economy and developed into a major thoroughfare and warehousing district for goods coming out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The federal stimulus money will be put toward widening seven miles of I-215, a heavily used cargo and commuter corridor running through the city of San Bernardino. The project is expected to directly employ 450 to 600 workers on the construction site each year for four years, and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy…The stimulus investment could translate into about $380 million in economic activity for the region as construction workers spend on equipment, supplies and personal expenses like food and clothing, said Mr. Husing, the economist."
"Eleven road construction projects are scheduled for Richmond and Wayne County this fall as a result of recent contract awards, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced this week. All roadbeds will be milled and resurfaced with 100 percent federal funding provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Milestone Contractors submitted low bids for the following stimulus projects: Contracts of $62,886 and $65,225 to mill and resurface Pottershop Road from Pennville Road .27 miles to Abington, and from Abington for .16 miles to U.S. 27 -- to be completed in early October. $147,292 contract to patch, wedge, level, mill and resurface .65 miles of Salisbury Road including the intersection with Nolands Fork Road -- to be completed in early November."
"Companies dealing in matters as small as a photon and as large as a harbor dredging vessel are winning contracts that could eventually define how large a jolt Oregon gets from the federal stimulus package. Contracts awarded by federal agencies have attracted less attention than other parts of the recovery package — tax cuts and aid to the state government to maintain schools, human services, unemployment benefits and roads. Spending on the part of federal agencies is still taking shape, but the contracts are a significant part of the stimulus program, whose variety is remarkable to some who have gotten more familiar with it as they bid for contracts. 'There's money coming out all over the place,' said Margaret Brooks, executive vice president of a Portland temp agency, which was awarded a small contract worth up to $62,000. She said the company would pay engineers working on the reconstruction of the Steens Mountain loop road in southeast Oregon. She said the money would put four people to work, some part time and probably none for long. That project is among 56 planned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Oregon, most resulting in contracts, worth $32 million. Many federal agencies have projects in the works: $3.4 million in stimulus money for dredging at five river mouths along the Oregon Coast, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, or several smaller forest thinning operations. The announcements trickle out week by week. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, an active announcer for such enterprises as the Portland region's mass transit system, said late last week, for example, that the Klamath Falls Airport in Southern Oregon would get about $667,000 to rehabilitate a taxiway, which soon should result in contracts and jobs. When the stimulus package was approved in the spring, the Obama administration estimated it would save or create 44,000 jobs in Oregon."
Virginia, [The News Leader, 9/30/09]
"When Congress passed the $787 billion federal stimulus package in February, it designated $21.5 billion for research and development …To date, U.Va. investigators have secured more than $38.7 million in stimulus funding for 102 projects across the research spectrum, from medicine to nursing, astronomy to physics, engineering to education, biology and beyond. Funding ranges from thousands of dollars to millions, including a $3.2 million grant to study genetic contributors to diabetes and dyslipidemia in African-Americans, led by medical professor Michele Sale. Other funded projects include a study to improve the healing of diseased or damaged vascular systems, led by biomedical engineer Shayn Peirce-Cottler; a study of extrasolar planets by astronomer Philip Arras; and an investigation into Rydberg atoms to understand connections between classical and quantum mechanics, led by physicist Thomas Gallagher. 'The federal stimulus program is fostering new discoveries that will enhance dissemination of knowledge to the commonwealth, the nation and the world,' Thomas Skalak, vice president for research, said. 'Our researchers are gaining valuable insights into new potential health care diagnostics and therapeutics, creating a more sustainable living environment and discovering the origins of our solar system.' Biology chairman Taylor said he is pleased that the stimulus plan includes significant funding for research. 'It says the federal government understands that science is a priority,' he said. 'This is a huge morale-booster.'"
Jesse LeeOctober 02, 2009
01:41 PM ESTThis morning, the Vice President discussed the latest unemployment figures, making clear that although things are not on the catastrophic path they were on when the President took office, there will be no rest or celebration until we are creating jobs at a pace to recover what we've lost. In a short address to the press, Vice President Biden outlined the steps the administration is taking to ensure economic stability for Americans:We are working hard on every front to turn this economy around. And as bad as things are, they would be far worse without the recovery plan, or these other efforts. That's why we've worked hard to accelerate the recovery spending, getting money out the door on schedule; and that's why we announced yesterday nine ambitious goals for the Recovery Act to perform between now and December 31st.Today's tough news is a reminder though that -- as if anybody would need it -- how critical this work is in making the Recovery Act work and why. As I told the Cabinet assembled yesterday, those efforts need to be redoubled in the weeks ahead. Let me be clear about one thing: Today's bad news does not change my confidence in the fact that we are going to recover. We will be producing jobs. The American economy and the job engine is going to be created and moving once again.
October 02, 2009
11:50 AM ESTOn Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution that takes important steps towards ending sexual violence in conflict-related situations.President Obama praised the measure and reinforced the importance that the Administration places on issues related to women and girls, stating:[T]he United States joins with the international community in sending a simple and unequivocal message: violence against women and children will not be tolerated and must be stopped. The United States places a high priority on this issue of fundamental human rights and global security. I am pleased that the Security Council, chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unanimously approved a US-sponsored resolution that will increase the protection of women and children in conflict. In particular, the resolution focuses on one of the most abhorrent features of modern war: the use of rape as a weapon, and other forms of sexual violence against women and children.The dignity of all human beings must be respected, and their rights protected. I applaud the United Nations and its member states for standing together to confront these despicable acts. I honor the courage that is shown every single day by women and girls facing hardship around the world, who have such an important role to play in resolving conflicts and advancing peace. And my Administration will continue to support the right of all women and girls to live free from fear, and to realize their full potential.The measure builds on two previous Security Council resolutions, 1820 and 1325, which were instrumental in placing the issue of sexual violence in conflict-related situations onto the agenda of the Security Council. Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, requires parties in conflict to respect women’s rights and support their participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction. Resolution 1820, adopted in 2008, establishes a clear link between maintaining international peace and security and preventing and responding to the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. It committed the Security Council to considering appropriate steps to end such atrocities and to punish their perpetrators.However, despite passage of these two important resolutions, conflict-related sexual violence against women and children continues to plague many areas around the world. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, approximately 1,100 rapes are being reported each month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every day. In addition to these rapes and gang rapes, of which there have been hundreds of thousands over the duration of the conflict, the perpetrators frequently mutilate the women in the course of the attacks.The measure adopted yesterday, Resolution 1888, identifies specific steps that the United Nations and member-states can and should take to improve the UN response to sexual violence committed during situations of armed conflict. It calls on the UN Secretary General to appoint a Special Representative to lead, coordinate, and advocate for efforts to end conflict-related sexual violence. It also requests that the Secretary General deploy a team of experts to work with governments to prevent conflict-related sexual violence and address impunity by strengthening civilian and military justice systems and enhancing national capacity, responsiveness to victims and judicial capacity.At the Security Council, Secretary Clinton hailed the passage of Resolution 1888, noting that "the challenge of sexual violence in conflict cannot and should not be separated from the broader security issues confronting this Council. It is time for all of us to assume our responsibility to go beyond condemning this behavior, to taking concrete steps to end it, to make it socially unacceptable, to recognize it is not cultural; it is criminal. And the more we say that over and over and over again, the more we will change attitudes, create peer pressure, and the conditions for the elimination of this violation."Rachel Vogelstein is Senior Policy Advisor at the Office of Global Women's Issues at the State Department (S/GWI)
Secretary Ray LaHoodOctober 02, 2009
09:40 AM ESTSome years from now, when we have made significant progress defeating the epidemic that is distracted driving, we will remember this moment.
Now, that is not to say that people haven't already been working to reduce this threat for several years. Those people, who were way out in front on this, deserve all the credit in the world.
But, over the last two days, we achieved what can only be described as critical mass.
For that, I thank everyone involved in the Distracted Driving Summit, from DOT organizers to panelists to those following on the Web. And, once again, I want to particularly thank those advocates who have lost family members to this irresponsible driving practice. I admire their courage for publicly telling and re-telling what must be painful, painful stories.
Now the heavy lifting begins, and DOT is ready to lead in that work. In fact, we've already started.
First, as I told the summit, President Obama has issued an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in texting when driving government vehicles, when using government-issued electronic devices while driving, and when driving their own vehicles using their own devices while on government business.
The order encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce policies banning texting while driving on the job.
This should be a clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable. This Administration is leading by example, and this is a very big deal.
Next, DOT will work with Congress, with state and local governments, and with other stakeholders to ensure that this issue is appropriately addressed.
And, we will initiate 3 separate actions:
- Make permanent restrictions on the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in rail operations.
- Ban text messaging altogether and restrict the use of cell phones by truck drivers and intersate bus operators.
- Disqualify school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving from maintaining commercial driver's licenses.
We will also call on state and local governments to make distracted driving part of their state highway plans and to pass laws against distracted driving in all types of vehicles, particularly school buses.
We will encourage states and local jurisdictions to pursue high-visibility enforcement, which has already proven effective in reducing drunk driving.
We'll work with advocates and industry groups to change our culture and mark this behavior as unacceptable.
We won't fix this problem overnight, but we are going to raise awareness and sharpen the consequences.
In the end, however, we cannot simply legislate this problem away. If we're going to improve road safety in this country, we're going to need our drivers to use common sense and show some consideration for other drivers and their passengers, for pedestrians, and for bicyclists.
As the grandfather of nine great kids and as Transportation Secretary, I want to know that our roads will be safe.
By this time next year, every driver in America should be far more aware of the risks and consequences of distracted driving. Driving while distracted should feel wrong - just as driving while intoxicated now feels wrong to most American drivers.
We have made a great start, and we will remember this moment. But these discussions will prove meaningless unless we follow up with action. We should all be encouraged, but none of us should be content.
Ray LaHood is the Secretary of Transportation
Peter OrszagOctober 02, 2009
09:14 AM ESTCross-posted from the OMB blog.Last week, OMB launched the President's Save Award, a contest for federal employees to come up with the best idea to save taxpayer dollars and make the government perform more effectively and efficiently.Today, we received the 10,000th submission and we now have 10,266 entries (to be exact!).If you are a federal employee and have not participated yet, there is good news: you have two weeks to enter. To submit your idea visit www.SaveAward.gov. The winner will meet with President Obama and have his or her idea incorporated into the FY 2011 Budget. (We also will recognize the agency with the highest participation rate so make sure your co-workers enter too!).Overall, the SAVE Award will help us identify what works and what doesn’t, so taxpayer dollars are used in the most productive and effective way possible.Peter Orszag is Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Jeffrey S. CrowleyOctober 02, 2009
08:51 AM ESTEvery nine-and-a-half minutes, someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV, which results in more than 56,000 new infections each year. In addition, there are 1.2 million people in this country living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom require services and support.President Obama is committed to developing a coordinated, measurable and successful National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) to address the HIV epidemic in the United States. In August, the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) launched a series of Community Discussions in 14 cities across the United States. In an effort to reach all Americans, we are also issuing a "Call to Action: Americans Speak About HIV/AIDS" to encourage community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, schools, businesses, research institutions and other groups to hold their own discussions and submit to the ONAP website the strategic steps we could take as a nation to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.The ONAP web site will begin accepting public input as part of the "Call to Action" on Friday, October 2, 2009, and the ONAP web site will continue to accept public input through Friday, November 13, 2009. For more information on the "Call to Action" or to submit a recommendation for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, please visit /administration/eop/onap/action/Jeffrey Crowley is the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and Senior Advisor on Disability Policy at the White House
Jesse LeeOctober 01, 2009
09:36 PM ESTUpon conclusion of the P5+1 meeting on Iran, President Obama sent a strong message on behalf of the international community: Iran must take "concrete action" in regards to its nuclear program. He also warned that Washington and allied nations are prepared to increase pressure if Iran does not take "constructive" steps:The result is clear: The P5-plus-1 is united, and we have an international community that has reaffirmed its commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament. That’s why the Iranian government heard a clear and unified message from the international community in Geneva: Iran must demonstrate through concrete steps that it will live up to its responsibilities with regard to its nuclear program.In pursuit of that goal, today’s meeting was a constructive beginning, but it must be followed by constructive action by the Iranian government.First, Iran must demonstrate its commitment to transparency. Earlier this month, we presented clear evidence that Iran has been building a covert nuclear facility in Qom. Since Iran has now agreed to cooperate fully and immediately with the International Atomic Energy Agency, it must grant unfettered access to IAEA inspectors within two weeks. I’ve been in close touch with the head of the IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei, who will be traveling to Tehran in the days ahead. He has my full support, and the Iranian government must grant the IAEA full access to the site in Qom.Second, Iran must take concrete steps to build confidence that its nuclear program will serve peaceful purposes -- steps that meet Iran’s obligations under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. The IAEA proposal that was agreed to in principle today with regard to the Tehran research reactor is a confidence-building step that is consistent with that objective -– provided that it transfers Iran’s low enriched uranium to a third country for fuel fabrication. As I’ve said before, we support Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear power. Taking the step of transferring its low enriched uranium to a third country would be a step towards building confidence that Iran’s program is in fact peaceful.Going forward, we expect to see swift action. We’re committed to serious and meaningful engagement. But we’re not interested in talking for the sake of talking. If Iran does not take steps in the near future to live up to its obligations, then the United States will not continue to negotiate indefinitely, and we are prepared to move towards increased pressure. If Iran takes concrete steps and lives up to its obligations, there is a path towards a better relationship with the United States, increased integration with the international community, and a better future for all Iranians.
Macon PhillipsOctober 01, 2009
06:03 PM ESTLast night Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann questioned health insurance reform, raising the spectre of school-based "sex clinics" that would take students to "have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night":It means that parents will never know what kind of counsel and treatment that their children are receiving. And as a matter of fact, the bill goes on to say what's going to go on -- comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor acute medical conditions, referrals to follow-up for specialty care -- is that abortion? Does that mean that someone's 13 year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser.The absurdity of this claim earns high honors from Politifact, a non-partisan research organization: Pants on Fire!Critics of the Democratic health care proposal have been increasingly raising concerns that the plan would provide taxpayer-subsidized abortions (a claim we address here). The Liberty Counsel, a conservative group, puts a different twist on that concern, alleging that Page 992 of the bill "will establish school-based 'health' clinics. Your children will be indoctrinated and your grandchildren may be aborted!"The claim comes from a long list of items allegedly in the bill that is posted on the group's Web site and has been widely circulated in a chain e-mail. The list looks a lot like one that we checked in July, based partly on blog postings by Peter Fleckenstein on his blog Common Sense from a Common Man . In fact, the Liberty Counsel says it adapted its memo from Fleckenstein's original work.
…We spoke with Sarah Speller at the Liberty Counsel, who told us that the group had been getting a lot of calls about the memo and that everyone there was very busy as a result. However, she assured us that "as far as our office can tell, everything in the overview is accurate. That's about all I can tell you," she said. "I'm just relaying what I've been told to say."That's not persuasive. We see no language in the three main versions of the bill that would allow school-based clinics, which have a long history of providing basic health services to underprivileged students, to provide abortions. Nor would the clinics even be new — they have been around for three decades. So we rate the claim Pants on Fire!
John BrennanOctober 01, 2009
03:20 PM ESTToday, per a Presidential Proclamation and a Senate Resolution, marks the start of the sixth annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. As stated in the President’s Cyberspace Policy Review, cybersecurity is a national priority and is vital to our economy and the security of our nation. The financial industry, our government networks, and your home computers are under continual attack from a variety of malicious actors, including domestic hackers, international organized crime rings, and foreign intelligence agencies. They are stealing your identities and financial information, sensitive government data, and proprietary industry information. As President Obama stated in his May 29th speech, "America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity."However, there is much that we can do to reduce our vulnerability and improve our resilience to cyber attacks, and we call on all Americans this month to recognize their role in improving the nation’s cybersecurity. One of the themes for this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. This refers to the fact that government, industry, and the individual computer user must all play a role in securing our information networks and data. Public-private partnerships are critical to these efforts, and one example of this partnership is the National Cybersecurity Alliance. This joint industry and government organization provides a variety of information on National Cybersecurity Awareness Month activities. Further, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) provides information on cybersecurity efforts happening within your state.During the month of October, I will be posting additional information on this blog regarding a variety of cybersecurity topics, including Cyber Threat, Cybersecurity Tips for the Home User, and Cybersecurity Careers.Please check back here weekly for additional cybersecurity information.John Brennan is the Deputy National Security Advisor and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Jesse LeeOctober 01, 2009
02:00 PM ESTAs the debate on health insurance reform rolls on, we at the White House want to keep finding ways to reach out to Americans all over the country. We’re excited to introduce what we hope will be a new series that will allow us to engage different regions and states, hear their perspectives, and address their questions.For today's first installment, the White House and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will welcome Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island for a live online video chat at 5:30PM EDT. The Secretary and the Senator will sit down here at the White House in a session streamed live at WhiteHouse.gov to answer the questions that the Senator hears most frequently from Rhode Islanders.And of course, as we like to do around here, in addition to being streamed live at WhiteHouse.gov, the Secretary and the Senator and will also take questions live through the White House’s video chat Facebook application, where folks can be a part of the conversation as it is happening.UPDATE: We had some streaming issues, but got a full recording with plenty of questions from both Facebook and Rhode Island. Watch the full video:
October 01, 2009
01:59 PM ESTOver the past few weeks, our colleagues from across the Administration have been busy leveraging social media tools to help make government more open and transparent. Here's a quick roundup of new ways to connect and get the latest updates from across the Administration:
- Today, the Department of Justice announced the launch of the new Justice.gov and new profiles on Twitter, YouTube , MySpace and Facebook.
- Yesterday, Secretary Salazar from the Department of Interior launched new profiles on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and even a great Flickr page that offers photos from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service and other bureaus.
- On Facebook, you can now become a fan of Education Secretary Duncan.
- You can now follow Transportation Secretary LaHood and Commerce Secretary Locke on Twitter.
October 01, 2009
12:31 PM EST
On Tuesday, the territory of American Samoa was struck by a major tsunami, causing widespread destruction in its coastal communities.FEMA began responding immediately. Within hours, President Obama had granted a Major Disaster Declaration for American Samoa, and we began the delivery of resources to support Governor Tulafono’s priority of lifesaving response efforts.Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in the impacted region. Unfortunately disasters, like the tsunami, often strike with little or no warning. But we are working hard, both before events like this and now during this important response, to ensure that our team is ready.Within an hour of the notification that American Samoa may have been hit by a tsunami, FEMA was working closely with its federal and regional partners, collecting information and executing our response plan.That meant immediately standing up our National Response Coordination Center in our Washington, DC headquarters, as well as our Regional Response Coordination Center in Region IX. FEMA’s Region IX, based out of California, oversees all emergency responses for American Samoa and is the lead for our current response efforts. That order led to a rapid staffing up of these centers both by FEMA employees, as well as our close partners in DHS, the Coast Guard, the American Red Cross, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Health and Human Services, to name a few.When a disaster strikes one of our territories in the Pacific, our number one priority is airlifting in lifesaving and life sustaining materials to respond to the needs of the survivors. Because of the vast distances between islands in the Pacific, we have prepositioned supplies already in Hawaii constantly on stand by for emergencies like this—and within hours of the President’s disaster declaration we began mobilizing those resources. Working with the Coast Guard, we deployed initial response teams and began moving supplies like food, water, sheltering materials, and medical supplies.As I write this, additional military flights are in the air, with more supplies on the way to American Samoa to meet the needs that Governor Tulafono has prioritized.To be clear, we are still in the response phase of this disaster, but thanks to the quick leadership of the President, Secretary Napolitano, Governor Tulafono and our federal partners, supplies and response teams are on the ground, with more on the way.For those of you who want to know how you can help the people of American Samoa today, I encourage to visit our partners, like the American Red Cross, and give what you can to aid in this recovery.Emergency response is a team effort – but FEMA is only one part of that team. In the last 48 hours, we’ve seen that team at work. But as images and reports from the ground continue to come in, it is clear that the recovery for the people of American Samoa will be a long process, and unfortunately there are many in American Samoa who still need our help. We are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers, and we will continue to do all we can on behalf of the President, Secretary Napolitano and the Governor to provide a speedy response and aid in American Samoa’s ultimate recovery.Craig Fugate is Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
Jesse LeeOctober 01, 2009
10:49 AM ESTIt's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, reports or documents.Health Reform Reality Check: Taxes, Undocumented Immigrants, Rationing· Right now, tens of millions of Americans live without health care coverage – one injury or illness away from bankruptcy. Tens of thousands join their ranks each week. And skyrocketing costs are squeezing family budgets, threatening businesses viability, consuming state and local budgets, and exploding our national deficit.· Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence that the status quo is unsustainable, there are some in Washington who still wish to kill reform at all costs. And they've spread baseless rumors to scare the American people about what reform would mean for them.· Here is a reality check on a few more of their favorite attacks:Attack: Health insurance reform will raise taxes on the middle class.Ø Reality Check: The real health tax in our health care system is a hidden tax of $1,000 that the millions of Americans who get insurance through their job or buy it on their own are already paying each year to cover the costs of caring for Americans without health insurance.o And if the people making these attacks get their way by killing reform, that hidden tax will only continue to grow by the day as more and more people lose their insurance.o What President Obama has proposed isn't a tax. It’s a law requiring people who can afford health insurance to purchase it, so that the rest of us don’t get stuck footing the bill – and a penalty for violating that law.§ People are required to obey the speed limit and have to pay a penalty if they get caught speeding? Does anyone consider that a tax?§ People are required to have car insurance and can be fined if they are caught without it. Is that a tax?Attack: President Obama’s health insurance reform plan will cover undocumented immigrants.Ø Reality Check: There are some in Washington who wish to preserve the status quo at all costs, and who are looking to create any issues that will increase opposition to reform. But this isn’t really about immigrants – it's about health care.o Undocumented immigrants aren’t going to be covered under this bill – the people trying to make this an issue are simply wrong.o Undocumented immigrants would not be able to participate in the exchange, nor would they receive subsidies or tax credits. Those who are lawfully present in this country would be able to participate.Attack: Health insurance reform will lead to rationing of care, with government bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor.Ø Reality Check: Health insurance reform will stop rationing, not increase it.o The hard truth is that rationing is already happening every day – at the hands of insurance companies who decide whether or not you get coverage. Health insurance reform will do away with many of the rules that make it difficult for some Americans to get health care coverage today.§ Reform will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage because you have a pre-existing condition; prevent them for cancelling coverage because you get sick; ban annual and lifetime limits on coverage; and prevent discrimination based on gender.o President Obama doesn’t want government bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor – and he doesn’t want insurance company bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor either.